SportsAid gives ‘Backing the Best’ funding to three HPA athletes

Fri 30 Jun 2017

BaseballSoftballUK is delighted to announce that three GB baseball and softball athletes will be supported by SportsAid and Sport England's ‘Backing the Best’ campaign.

Coby Hargan and Conor Baker-Latham (baseball) and Chelsie Robison (softball), who are all members of BSUK's High Performance Academy (HPA), will each benefit from a programme designed to support athletes who will face difficulties progressing through their sport’s talent development system without critical financial help.

Coby Hargan said: “The money will allow me to attend more training sessions and I have been able to buy new equipment I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford.”

Conor Baker-Latham said: “This award will benefit me hugely as it enables me to go to the US and compete in some NCAA Division 1 camps.”

For Chelsie Robison, the award will help her and her family defray the costs of training and travelling to compete with the GB Under-19 Women’s Fastpitch Team.

Backing the Best

In order to be eligible for ‘Backing The Best’ awards, athletes first had to be nominated by BaseballSoftballUK, and were then in competition with talented athletes from a wide range of sports.

Backing The Best was launched by Sport England, in partnership with SportsAid, in November 2015.  The scheme helps young, talented athletes in England who face the greatest financial pressures.

Backing The Best is not designed to make the commitment to sport any easier, but rather to help young people who show promise for the future but may be forced to give up sport entirely or curtail their participation due to the costs involved.

The scheme is using £5.5 million of National Lottery funding over a four-year period to extend SportsAid’s reach into new areas of the country and offer more support to those who face the biggest financial challenges.  Annual awards of up to £5,000 per athlete will help with essential costs such as travel, accommodation and kit as well as providing extra support from coaches and physios.

In all, 70 athletes were supported during the first year of the scheme in 2016, producing world, European and national age-group level champions, with 94 up-and-coming stars now benefiting from the programme’s second term.  Many of the first set of awardees have now progressed on to Athlete Performance Award funding from UK Sport.

SportsAid also gives smaller awards to talented young athletes in a wide range of sports, and a number of young GB baseball and softball players have benefitted from these awards over the past two years.


Phil Smith, Sport England’s Director of Sport, highlighted the difference that ‘Backing The Best’ is making with regard to the costs that young athletes are facing. “In an ideal world,” he said, “talent and effort alone would determine who gets to the top in sport.  The reality is, being a talented athlete can be expensive.  In the talent system, athletes and their families now have to find an average of over £6,000 a year.

“This is out of the reach of many and puts others at risk of dropping out, and not fulfilling their potential.  Thanks to National Lottery players, we’ve been able to help another 94 young athletes this year through ‘Backing The Best’ so we can take some of those financial barriers away.  We want these potential stars of the future to be able to concentrate on what matters most, their sport.”

Former BSUK High Performance Academy Director Will Lintern was responsible for selecting these three athletes alongside 12 others SportsAid were asked to consider. 

Will said: “Supporting athletes and those who have potential is one of the pillars of any sports development pathway.  The fact that our talented athletes have been recognised alongside athletes from other more established British sports is a testament not just to their ability and work ethic, but also to the quality of our talent development programmes.  It is a privilege and an honour to be able to help these athletes and their families, and hopefully these awards will remove one more hurdle on their journey towards success."

Coby Hargan said: “Coach Lintern at the High Performance Academy put me forward for the award and I’d like to thank him for all he’s done.  The HPA has some of the best coaches around and has enabled me to develop as a baseball player to get me to the stage that I’m currently at.”

As part of their support, Coby Hargan, Chelsie Robison and Conor Baker-Latham have now benefited from expert insight and guidance from double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi and Team GB canoe slalom legend Richard Hounslow at a workshop held on 4 May to equip them with life skills for their future careers in sport.

You can see a video of the workshop here:

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